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All You Need to Know About Key West's Conch Republic Independence Celebration

Posted on: April 15th , 2024 | Events & Festivals
All You Need to Know About Key West's Conch Republic Independence Celebration

Most outsiders don’t know it, but April is a special month in Key West. The island becomes extra-animated with parties saluting the annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration, which honors the time Key West momentarily seceded from the United States. This year, festivities run April 19 - 28 and include the longest parade in the world, pub crawls, pool parties, fake battles, and other off-beat traditions.

[The small island of Key West packs a lot of punch. Keep tabs on nightlife, seasonal seafood, events, watersport adventures, and more, at the 24 North Hotel Blog]

For those who don’t know, the Conch Republic was only established 42 years ago, in 1982, after the U.S. Border Patrol set up a roadblock on one of the two roads that connects Key West to the mainland, which resulted in heinous traffic jams. Key West residents protested after seeing this act as a threat to their livelihood and the tourism industry. However, they didn’t use banners, signs, and marches - they seceded as their own independent micronation.

Well, not officially.

Former Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow declared the secession as more of a joke than an actual act of treason. And while the actual “revolution” lasted only a minute, the roadblock was later removed. Today, the festivities surrounding the Conch Republic Independence Celebration are driven by the republic’s mission “to bring humor, warmth, and respect to a world in sore need of all three.”

Locals never miss an opportunity to exhibit their “sovereign state of mind” - as you’ll see in their annual celebrations.

Conch Republic Independence Celebration Main Events

This year’s Conch Republic Independence Celebration kicks off April 19 with a beach clean-up, raising the conch colors at Mallory Square, and in the evening, a party and conch shell blowing contest at Schooner Wharf Bar, the official “unofficial” bar of the Conch Republic.

conch-independence-party-flier

On the 21st, join us at Rum Row and The Gates Hotel, our sister hotel located just next door, for the biggest Conch Republic Independence Celebration pool party, Party Like A Conch Star - it’s free! Hang out at the poolside oasis from 1 - 4 p.m. for a day of non-stop fun, live music, and unbeatable drink specials. Sip on delicious cocktails served up by our amazing sponsors, visit the vendor and sponsor booths, and soak up the sun with friends. This is one pool party you won't want to miss, so grab your swimsuit and let's make some unforgettable memories together.

Another worthwhile activity includes the annual Conch Republic Drag Races on Duval, raced by drag queens (would you expect anything less?!). Queens stuff their shirts, dawn crazy-colored wigs, and scant around in tight, short skirts, all while racing down Duval Street to complete an obstacle course filled with tires, shopping carts, and tightropes.

Other events include the “Great Sea Battle” (fought with water guns and stale bread); the Naval Parade and World’s Longest Parade (which spans from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico); bar crawls and “conch-tail” parties, boat and bed races, costume contests, fairs and markets, and so much more. See the events calendar below for a full list and times.

Conch Republic Independence Celebration Full Schedule

Daily

- 2 - 9 p.m. Headquarters and Welcome Center at the Key West Historic Seaport (Elizabeth and Greene)
- Day and Sunset Sails, Snorkel and Dive Trips, Parasailing, and more

Friday, April 19

- 8 - 9 a.m. Conchy Beach Clean-up at Salute! On the Beach
- 5 - 6 p.m. Opening Ceremony and Raising of the Colors at Mallory Square
- 7 - Late, Kick-off Party and Conch Shell Blowing Contest at Schooner Wharf Bar

Saturday, April 20

- 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. 2nd annual Stock Island Earth Day Clean-up at Bernstein Park
- 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. 14th annual Ocean Fest at Truman Waterfront Park
- 1 - 3 p.m. Family Pirate Sail aboard the historic schooner When & If at Perry Hotel Marina (also at 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.)
- 1 p.m. Conch Crawl in Old Town (801 Bourbon Bar, Mangoes, Kaya Island Eats, Willie Ts, Hank’s Hair of the Dog, Rick’s Downstairs, and Salty Frog’s Bar & Grill)
- 2 - 6 p.m. 40th annual Conch Republic Drag Races on Duval at Bourbon Street Pub

Sunday, April 21

- 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. 40th annual Conch Republic Art & Craft Street Fair on Duval (between Eaton and Greene)
- 1 - 4 p.m. Party Like a Conch Star at The Gates Hotel
- 5 - 7:30 p.m. Jazz in the Gardens at The Gardens Hotel
- 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Sail with the Conch Republic High Command aboard the historic schooner When & If at Perry Hotel Marina

Monday, April 22

- 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Sail into History with Keys Historian Corey Malcom, PhD, aboard the historic schooner When & If at Perry Hotel Marina

Tuesday, April 23

- 5 - 8 p.m. Conch Republic Military Muster and Conch-tail Party on the Truman Waterfront Pier
- 5 - 6 p.m. 42nd annual Independence Day Ceremony at USCGC Ingham
- 8 - 9 p.m. Captain’s Meeting for the Conch Republic Naval Parade at Schooner Wharf Bar

Wednesday, April 24

- 6 - 10 p.m. Hot Havana Night Dance Party with Caribe of Key West at The Backyard Bar at Kaya

Thursday, April 25

- 2 - 7 p.m. Conch Republic Farmers Market at Truman Waterfront Park
- 5 - 7 p.m. Parade Pre-Party and Conch Republic Military Commissioning Ceremony at The Mansion on the Sea
- 8 - 9 p.m. World’s Looooongest Parade on Duval
- 9 p.m. - Late, Parade After-Party and Awards Ceremony at Schooner Wharf Bar

Friday, April 26

- 7 p.m. 42nd annual Conch Republic Independence Naval Parade in Key West Harbor
- 7 p.m. 42nd annual Reenactment of the Great Sea Battle of the Conch Republic in, alongside, and above Key West Harbor
- 8 p.m. - Late, 42nd annual “Surrender Ceremony and Victory Party” Conch Republic Sea Battle at Schooner Wharf Bar

Saturday, April 27

- 1 - 6 p.m. 42nd annual Conch Republic Blue Ribbon Bed Races at 801 Duval St.
- 7 - 10 p.m. 1st annual Conch Republic Brawl on Duval Amateur Boxing Match for Key West Police Activities League at 200 Block of Duval (in front of Rick’s)
- 7 - 8 p.m. 39th annual “Schooner Wharf Wreckers Cup Race Series” Captain’s Meeting at Schooner Wharf Bar
- 7 p.m. 37th annual Pirate Ball and Costume Contest at Schooner Wharf Bar

Sunday, April 28

- 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Key West Artisan Market at Higgs Beach
- 1 - 4 p.m. 39th annual Schooner Wharf Wreckers Race Series Cup Race Series to Sand Key Lighthouse
- 5 - 7:30 p.m. Jazz in the Gardens at The Gardens Hotel
- 7 p.m. 37th annual Schooner Wharf Wreckers Race Series Cup Awards Party and Ceremony at Schooner Wharf Bar

Long live the Conch Republic!

Pack your costumes, grab a bottle of rum, and “secede where others failed.” Get to the Conch Republic Independence Celebration from April 19 to April 28, 2024, and stay at 24 North Hotel, the “unofficial” hotel of the Conch Republic. We have modern rooms that are smartly furnished, a large pool, and an on-site Starbucks and restaurant. Plus, if you want some peace and quiet away from the festival during your downtime, we're in just the right spot. We’re located about 10 minutes from all the festivities and have air-conditioned shuttles to and from Old Town. See which of our special offers works for you and don’t forget to RSVP to the Conch Republic Independence Celebration ultimate pool party, Party Like A Conch Star.

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